The late Francis Yousef Shabo was born in 1951 in the Assyrian town of Mangesh in Nohadra (Dohuk) in northern Iraq. He graduated in from the University of Mosul with a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering and worked for years in various positions.
A leader in the early years of the Assyrian Democratic Movement, Shabo was elected in May 1992 to the Iraqi Kurdistan Parliament, where he served on the Economic and Financial Affairs Committee, as well as the Committee for Planning, Development, and Census.
As an Assyrian representative, his work focused on ending the expropriation of Assyrian and Yazidi lands under Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) jurisdiction and reversing Arabization policies targeting Assyrians that had resulted in forced demographic change. He worked tirelessly to return confiscated lands to their rightful owners, becoming a popular and beloved figure among Assyrians worldwide, but also within the Yazidi community.
Shabo was a member of the Chaldean Catholic Church, and was an outspoken advocate for unity among Assyrians regardless of church denomination. He spoke widely on this issue, criticizing identity politics and urging ethnic Assyrians to reject division based on religious affiliations.
His growing influence made him a target of both Saddam Hussein’s regime and the Barzani-family led Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). Tragically, on June 1, 1993, Shabo was assassinated while driving to his home in Nohadra (Dohuk) at the age of 43. He left behind his wife and three young daughters. He is buried in his hometown of Mangesh.
For 17 years, the identity of his murderers was unknown, and their motive left to speculation. However, in June 2010, Hawlati, a Kurdish newspaper published in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq, leaked official documents from the Baath-era Directorate of Intelligence tying known KDP assassin Wahid Koveli to Shabo’s murder.
Despite the evidence and pressure from the Assyrian community, then KRG President and KDP leader Masoud Barzani refused to bring Koveli and his conspirators to justice, reportedly drawing into question the legitimacy of the documentation.
Koveli was never prosecuted by the KRG court system. He lived the remainder of his life as a decorated Peshmerga commander, until his death in 2016 at the age of 46 due to a ‘brain stroke.’ He remains a celebrated Kurdish hero.
In 2017, a mural honoring Koveli was unveiled just outside the Assyrian town of Enishke. Assyrians are offended and deeply disturbed by the mural, which they feel has been intentionally placed near an Assyrian village.
Despite 25 years since his passing, Assyrians around the world continue to honor his legacy and demand justice for his murder. Here are 5 simple ways to do justice to Francis Shabo's legacy.